Business

Who you take advice from matters ……… A LOT!

25 Sep
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Business, employent law, Employment Tribunal, Performance Management   |  No Comments

Would you allow a GP to carry out brain surgery on you?
Would you want your accountant giving you a manicure?

The answer to both, I suspect, is NO!

So why do people listen to family and friends when they need advice on their staff?

The answer we are sometimes given is “because they have run a business”; but more often than not it is just because the employer was venting and family and friends were trying to be supportive.

Would you want a business coach mentoring you if they had already had three of their businesses go into liquidation?

Would you want a business coach guiding your growth from £100k – £3m if they have never run a business of more than £250k and have only ever sold a product when you offer a service?

Making sure you surround your business with the right people is essential for business success and hiring the wrong people or taking advice from people because it ‘feels’ right is an irresponsible risk to introduce into your business.

I am a member of a number of business-related Facebook Groups where members are incredibly supportive of each other. People pose all sorts of business questions and other group members provide useful, enlightened, inspirational and business-focussed advice. However, (there is often a however) I get quite concerned about the people advice that is often given. It is still being given in the right way i.e. from the desire to be supportive and helpful; but so many times it is legally wrong! It may feel right, it may feel like the moral thing to do, it may even be what the advice giver has done in the past…… but none of that makes the advice right.

There are always options and when giving employment law or HR advice (they are not quite the same thing), it is essential that you know 3 things:

  1. What the law says
  2. What your contracts of employment and/or employee handbook says
  3. What has already been said to / is understood by the employee

When people ask about underperforming staff and everyone says “get rid”, “fire today”, “show them the door”, what they do not understand is the following:

  • Does the employee have a contract of employment and if so, what does it say?
  • Is there a contractual disciplinary, grievance or termination policy within the business?
  • How long has the employee been there?
  • Does the employee have any protected features?
  • Are there any medical issues which are causing the poor performance?

The answers to these will all determine the options available to the business owner and the risks associated with each option.

The latest employment tribunal figures show the number of claims last quarter increased by 165% compared to the same quarter last year. In the last quarter, the largest AVERAGE awards were given for disability (£30,700) and the average award for unfair dismissal was £15,007.

As employees no longer need to pay to take a case to the employment tribunal and discrimination claims do not require 2 years service and these awards are uncapped, employers really do need to be aware of the implications of what they say and the decisions they make.

So, while family, friends and other business owners are happy and willing to provide advice, you do need to make sure that you are taking the right advice. It must be right for your business, right for you and right for your employee…. It is just not worth risking your business over.

Probation Period

06 Apr
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Business, people management, Performance Management, Policies and Procedures, Probation, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments

This is a trial period at the start of someone’s employment.

A 6 month probation period is ideal as it gives the employee time to learn the role and the employer time to assess performance and to provide feedback, making corrections to performance or attitude if required.

If the new member of staff does not have the right attitude, skills or ability they can be removed more easily during their probation period.

BNI – 60 Seconds – 30th November

01 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Business, HR, HR Audit, HR Consultancy   |  No Comments

From time to time, BNI members get the opportunity to talk for 60 seconds about another members business. This week, the lovely Paul Abbot of Coraff Carpets presented my 60 seconds and I thought I would share it with you …………….

How does Donna make the work place a better place to be?

Firstly she has to get to know your business quickly, she looks at what is practical for the business and looks to audit the HR side of your business.

What does that mean?

No preconceptions – Donna comes fully unencumbered without any of your hang ups that are to do with your business, the one you have taken years to build up in some cases.

She offers you guidance to allow motivation and incentivisation of your workforce , helps you to create the correct contracts of employment, and helps make you legally compliant.

I was amazed at some of the large companies that donna had worked with who it seemed could not organise the purchase of paperclips let alone the organisation of a work force.

I thought unwisely that HR was trying to squeeze the most out of your employees.

HR is not about policing people

Good HR is enabling the business to manage its people effectively

That’s how you make the work place a better place to be.

BNI – 60 Seconds – 26th October

29 Oct
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Accountants in North West London, BNI, Bushey, Business, Hertfordshire, HR, HR Consultant   |  No Comments

So often I am bought in to help a company once there has been a problem…..

– They have an employment tribunal against them
– They have a difficult employee who has gone for years unmanaged
– There is a back pay payroll claim
– There is an unacceptable level of absence

DOHR prefers to work proactively with businesses ensuring that they are legally compliant and adopting best practices to ensure that their employees become and remain engaged with their business, actively contributing to the ongoing success of the business.

By working with Accountants and other professional business advisors DOHR is able identify risks and help manage them before they become threats to the survival of the business. This week I am looking for a referral to Accountants in North West London

I am Donna Obstfeld, the Company is DOHR and we Do HR, making the workplace a better place to be.

Things to consider when employees work from home

28 Oct
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Business, Contract of employment, employee rights, employent law, Employer Sponsorship, Employment Legislation, Equality Act, Flexible working, Home-workers, HR, HR Policy, Part-time Workers Act   |  No Comments

There are several reasons why an employee may be working from home, but in this article, we ignore the reasons behind home workers and focus on things an employer must consider to ensure legal compliance and business effectiveness of the arrangements.

A home worker must have a workspace which is fit for purpose. Whether the role involves a computer at a desk or a telephone, paper and pen, the employer must make sure that the employee has adequate seating, lighting and desk space as required.If the employee has stock or samples to store or move around, the employer must again ensure that this is done safely and with no risk to the employee or other people at the house.

Although the duty of care falls to the employer, there is an obligation on employees to play their role in establishing and maintaining a healthy and safe working environment. They must ensure that they make use of facilities provided and inform their employer if there are any changes in circumstance.

As well as the physical environment, employees must ensure that they psychological environment is appropriate for work. An employee must be able to fully focus on the job while they are working. They should not have young children or large dogs running around or a constant flow of callers to the house. Employees are expected to be undistracted and to dedicate themselves 100% to their job, during their working hours.

Communication is essential to making a home worker relationship effective. Whether one member of the team or the whole team works remotely, it is vital that regular communication channels are established and maintained. Ideas include weekly team calls, group emails, newsletters and monthly meetings. The exact contents of these will vary depending on the nature and culture of the business, the type of work being done from home and the personality of the home workers themselves. The purpose of the communication is twofold: to ensure that the employee is engaged with the business and therefore wants to contribute to it’s success; and that the work delivered is what is expected and required by the business. Home working can be isolating and good communication will lead to better outcomes.

Other considerations include the type of work being done. Is the home worker merely based at home for contractual reasons and then travelling around to effectively do their role? Or does the role require the employee to be sat at a desk all day working? What support and training does the employee need? What additional tools do they require to do their role? If they need a car, is one provided in the same way as it would be for an office based employee? If they need internet access or a dedicated phone line, how does this get paid for?

Employment legislation applies equally to home workers as it does to office based workers and compliance with Acts such as the Equality Act, The Working Time Directive and Part-time Workers Regulations all still apply. Does the home-worker have the same terms and conditions of employment? Are their pay and benefits the same as they would be if they were based in the office? Is there someone doing the same job as them based in the office and are the two employees treated equally. The only contractual difference should be their location.

When considering using home workers, consider their home as a satellite office. You don’t have the right to turn up unannounced, but they are employees and should be managed in a fair and equitable way, helping the business to achieve it’s goals.

For further information and support on employing home based workers, please contact DOHR on 01923 504100 or at www.dohr.co.uk

World Cup

26 May
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Business, employee rights, HR, Human Resources, policy, world cup   |  No Comments

Love it or hate it, the world cup is coming and as employers, you need to ensure you know what you can and can’t do to protect your business from absent employees.

Get it right now and managing employees during the tournament becomes easy.

You need a clear policy. Decide how you are going to encourage staff to be at work during games, communicate it and stick to it consistently, for all employees, no exceptions.

Don’t just make allowances for England games – not everyone supports England!!

Can your business support flexi-time? If employees take a break to watch a match, can they make up the time at the start or end of the day? This may not work if your employees are customer facing i.e. working in shops or call centres.

If employees book holiday time to watch a match, is this on a first come first served basis? How do you ensure you treat everyone equally.

If you have a TV onsite to enable people to watch the game, what will you do for employees who have no interest in football whatsoever?

The keys to getting this right are:
– Have a plan which protects your business
– Communicate it in advance
– Deal with any issues in advance
– Do not treat people differently
– Ensure consistent decision making
– Deal with any complaints through your company grievance procedures

For further help and advice specific to your business needs, contact us on 01923 504100 or via our website.

Time for a Spring Clean

21 Apr
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Audit, Business, HR, Human Resources, RIsk, SME   |  No Comments

You take your car for an MOT, you take yourself to the doctor for a check up, you even get an accountant to look at your books, but when was the last time you gave your employee practices an audit?

Do you know if you are legally compliant?
Are you sure you are getting the best value for money from your employees?
Are your employees motivated and engaged with your business?
Would your employees recommend you as a good employer to work for?
Do you know the risks your business is exposed to as a result of its current employment practices?

For many SMEs across London and Hertfordshire, the answer is “no”, or sometimes a little more naively “I don’t care, we are too smalll, it doesn’t affect us”.

At DOHR we carry out a full HR audit. We interview the business owners, we use questionnaires with staff, we look at documents, we review data and we ask lots of questions.

What business owners end up with is a thorough understanding of the risks their business is exposed to as a result of employing people. Sounds scary, we know, but the best way to protect a business from anything is to understand the risk, put in place actions to mitigate the risk and continue to monitor the situation on a regular basis.

Employment tribunals for discrimination, bullying and failure to follow procedures can cost thousands to defend and tens of thousands (if not more) in damages. For an SME these costs can be the difference between having a business and shutting it down. Even with one employee, it is important to get HR advice, understand what you should be doing and then decide how to do it in a way which works for your business.

Are your beliefs ‘protected’ in law?

03 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Business, Discrimination, employent law, HR   |  4 Comments

I’m sure many of you do not follow the employment case law. However, when it makes the six o’clock BBC news, it may be worth paying attention to.

Firstly, in case any of you have missed it, here are links to two articles about the said Employment Appeal Tribunal decision handed down today. The actual EAT judgement and a BBC article summarising it.

So, what are the implication for employers?

Well since the introduction of the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003 discimination of any employee on the basis of “any religion, religious belief, or philosophical belief” has been illegal. Religion and religious belief have been widely understood and consistently interpreteted, but philosophical belief is harder to define; and if you can’t define something, how can you prevent discrimination on the basis of it?

When the law was first introduced there were concerns about office banter over many a passionate belief – football teams for example. Employee A supports Local Team United and all other employees (and the boss) support Local Team City. Can office banter be deemed discriminatory if employee A is not promoted, not offered the same opportunities etc?

When is a political belief or a deep rooted way of life a philosophical belief protected in law?

How does this affect company policy on discrimination, bullying, harrassment and equality of opportunity?

This is a case which we should all now be watching.

Thoughts and experiences please.

Do we need a high pay commission

17 Aug
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in bonuses, Business, high pay commission, Human Resources, pay   |  5 Comments

When you hear that 100 key figures have come out in support of a ‘high pay’ commission, it does make you stop and reconsider your view, re-evaluate your thoughts and do I want to change my gut reaction? ……….. No. Why do we need a high pay commission? Is it shutting the door after the horse has bolted? Probably. Is it going to stop the same thing happening again? Probably not! Is it going to decrease our ability to attract top talent from around the world? Yes. Will it lead to our top talent leaving in search of their fortune? Absolutely.

By restricting pay settlements, imposing excessive taxes on top earners and smothering an employers ability to attract and retain top talent, a high pay commission has the ability to destroy exactly that which it is trying to build – a strong economy.

There are very good arguments for controlling remuneration. Linking pay and bonuses to both long term and short term performance is essential. Defining good performance and distinguishing exceptional performance plays a vital role in incentivising and rewarding top performers, but equally employers must not be scared to say, “you weren’t good enough this year, there is no bonus, no pay rise etc.”

We do not need a ‘high pay’ commission. We do need employers to look at what they pay, how they pay and when they pay. It must be appropriate, motivational, performance and time bound.

How are you preparing your business for swine flu?

29 Apr
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Business, Human Resources, people manaagment, policy, sickness, swine flu   |  No Comments

Do you and your client have a strategy for managing an outbreak of swine flu?

Does your sickness policy encourage people to stay at home and work from there rather than come into the office if they are feeling ill?

Do you pay for the first 3 days of sickness absence before SSP kicks in? If not, you are encouraging people to come to work even when they are not feeling well.

Take a look at your policy now. Make amendments to protect your staff and your business. It is possible to put in place emergency measures on a temporary basis.

Think about your people, think about your business and have a contingency plan…. don’t put it off, the government are preparing and you must prepare your business NOW!

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